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DAY 44, BUS 2: Vilnius

7 June 2018

Day 44 of our bus trip and we are in Vilnius, Lithuania. The day started with a press conference with attendance from National TV, radio and written media.

This was followed by a very well attended conference in the National Library.  There was important acknowledgement of the role NGOs, like EAPN Lithuania, play in achieving better societies.  It was great to have the presence of Eitvydas Bingelis, Vice Minister for Social Security and Labour.

Once again, the link between Adequate Minimum Income and access to services was stressed.  There was general acknowledgement that the level of Minimum Income support is way too low. There was also recognition that Lithuania has some of the toughest conditions related to the access of Minimum Income. It is strange but logical that the poorer the quality of the schemes, the stricter the conditions to access them are. It is also my experience that the poorer the schemes are, the more time is spent in questioning whether the beneficiaries will use the money ‘wisely’. There was also important acknowledgement that the level of taxes in Lithuania, in general, is too low and not progressive enough to allow for the financing of decent social assistance and social services. The reality of low wages was also highlighted. Once again it became clear that you will never have decent minimum income schemes without decent wages and that these two goals are mutually reinforcing.

The third activity of the day was an action with the bus on one of the busiest squares in Vilnius. What was different here was the use of the ‘human library’ technique. This technique uses people’s life experience in an area (so they become a human book) and people passing by could stop and ‘borrow’ this ‘human book’ to have a short exchange about their experience. Some of the ‘human books’ were people with experience of minimum income schemes.